On Tuesday night, Cooperstown announced its newest member joining the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Scott Rolen. To get into the MLB Hall of Fame, you need 75 percent of the votes; Rolen received 76.3 percent of the votes.
The talented third baseman isn’t the only name getting inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer. Although no other players in the 28-member ballot were elected, Fred McGriff, who was selected in December to join the now two-person 2023 MLB Hall of Fame class, was unanimously chosen by the 16-member contemporary baseball players committee.
Rolen is the 18th third baseman elected to the Hall. He played 17 seasons, hitting a .281 average and a .364 on base percentage while garnering 2,077 hits, 1,287 RBI’s and 316 home runs with a career 70.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
Additionally, he won eight Gold Glove Awards which is the fourth most all time among third baseman. He was a seven-time All-Star, 2006 World Series Champion, the 2001 Silver Slugger and was the 1997 Rookie of the Year. Rolen navigated through 17 years in the Major League, most notably with the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals.
Last year, Rolen gained 63.2 percent of the vote, the highest out of all players not voted in. This was his sixth year on the ballot. In 2018, he only received 10.2 percent of the vote, which is the lowest first-year percentage for a player who ended up getting voted in.
The third baseman played his first seven years in Philadelphia starting in 1996 and his next six seasons with the Cardinals. He also made stops in Toronto with the Blue Jays and ended his career with the Cincinnati Reds in 2012.
McGriff played five seasons with Toronto, three for the San Diego Padres, five with the Atlanta Braves, four with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, two for the Chicago Cubs, one with the Los Angeles Dodgers and ended his career in 2004 with one more season in Tampa Bay at the age of 40. The first baseman had five All-Star nods, three silver sluggers, an All-Star Game MVP and was a member of the 1995 World Series-winning Braves.
The journeyman posted a .284 average, a .377 on base percentage, 1,550 RBIs, 493 home runs, and a 52.6 WAR across his 19 seasons. McGriff had to wait a little longer than Rolen, but both deserved this high honor.
There was one name that didn’t make it in their final year of eligibility, Jeff Kent. After ten years on the ballot, Kent posted his best percentage, grabbing 46.5 percent of the vote. 75 is the hurdle to jump, and he sadly needed another nearly 30 percent of voters to change their minds.
Kent had a great career at second base, posting a .290 average, .356 on base percentage, 1,518 RBI’s and a 55.4 WAR. He was a five time All-Star, a four-time Silver Slugger and the 2000 National League MVP. In 17 seasons Kent built himself a nice case. Look for him in the future to get in with the committee, just like McGriff did this year.
The closest to not getting in was long-time Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, receiving 72.2 percent of the vote. The 17 year veteran was only 11 votes shy this year. This easily makes him the favorite to pass the threshold next year, as a three percent climb is very reasonable.
Longtime Houston Astro and MLB journeyman Billy Wagner received over 68 percent of the vote, falling just short of being selected. Wagner was a great reliever, but there are only eight relievers currently in the Hall of Fame, so he faces a steeper challenge than some of his ballot counterparts. With his current trajectory, he should make it next year, which this closer who has the sixth most career saves in MLB history deserves.
Mark Buehrle is someone who deserves to be in more than you might think. Along with his perfect game, no hitter, four Gold Gloves and dominant 2005 playoff performance leading the Chicago White Sox to the pennant. Buehrle, known for being fast-paced on the mound yet able to pitch long into the game, posted a career 59.1 WAR.
If we are looking at WAR, a stat many believe to be the stat that shows a players true value and versatility among all positions, then consider this: there are 40 pitchers in the Hall of Fame with a lower WAR than Buehrle. Buehrle went from 5.8 to 10.8 in the voting, but he needs to be seriously looked at for the workhorse that he is for him to get enough of a swing to call Cooperstown a second home.
Another name that many MLB fans may recognize is Carlos Beltran. Beltran had a great career, but was found to be involved in the 2017 Houston Astros World Series cheating scandal. He had a strong sign of hope however, as he gained 46.5 percent of the vote on his first ballot.
While the argument of performance-enhancing drugs and their impact on many players’ careers is multifaceted and differs between players. If names like Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, and Roger Clemens aren’t in for what they did or didn’t do, there is no excuse to let Beltran see his name in the Hall of Fame. That’s why New York Yankees’ star Alex Rodriguez only went from 34.3 to 35.7 percent in this year’s vote and will join these names outside the Hall.
This year we saw 28 names on the ballot, 14 new and 14 old. Last year we had several who didn’t hit five percent, or had their tenth year on the ballot. It’ll be interesting to see who’s on next year, but more importantly who stays.
Getting 75 percent of any vote is hard, especially if you have 394 voters like the BBWAA has. Deciding if a player should or should not be in the Hall of Fame is a hard decision, especially when considering all the scandals and other outside factors that prohibit a clean vote no matter how your career went.
McGriff’s and Rolen’s accomplishments are a testament and I’m happy to see that they were able to climb the hurdle to join the Hall of Fame.